WIRRAL Council wants to save thousands of pounds by re-introducing charges for the ERIC service and scrapping funding for Christmas lights.
A list of potential savings have been drawn up to help the council tackle an expected £23m shortfall in its budget.
l Saving £45,000 by increasing tuition charges for the borough’s instrumental music service
l Withdrawing funding for Christmas lights for traders and referring them to area forums and other sources of community funding, saving £30,000
l Introducing a £20 charge to collect bulky waste through the ERIC service, raising £515,000
l Scrapping plans to spend £45,000 on publicising Wirral’s new bin system
At a meeting of cabinet members on Thursday, council leader Steve Foulkes said urgent savings were needed to combat a forecasted £9m increase in Wirral’s energy bill and a £10m repairs backlog.
In April 2005 a £15 charge for the ERIC service, which receives 21,000 requests a year, was introduced by the council despite opposition from the Conservatives and Lib-Dems.
The free service was restored in 2006 after figures showed take-up on the service dropped by more than 75% by the following August and 58 extra tonnes of rubbish were dumped illegally in the borough.
Streetscene cabinet member Cllr Jean Quinn said: “This is an opportunity for local communities to prioritise local issues, and, if they so wish, to back local traders and provide funding for Christmas lights.
“Each area forum receives a total of £35,000 to allocate as it sees fit.
“I would like to emphasiste that, if approved, the proposals will not come into effect until 2009, giving traders and community groups plenty of time to seek alternative funding.
“The funding allocated by the council for Christmas lights comes out of the same budget as that for maintaining our street lights. We cannot continue to bear the rising costs for the Christmas lights at the expense of street lighting.
“However, local communities now have the means to continue with the lights if they choose to do so.”
The Conservatives said they were disgusted at the decision to charge for the ERIC service and warned it would lead to increased fly-tipping.
Cllr Gill Gardiner, cabinet member for the environment, said the new ERIC service would take up to five items per visit and £20 was a “still a competitive rate” compared to the private sector.